So what would I recommend growing in your garden if you can? Here are my top 10 vegetables and herbs to plant in your garden.
1. Lettuces and greens like Romaine, butter lettuce, red or green leaf lettuce, arugula, spinach, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens etc.
Greens can cost $1.50 – $3.50 a bunch, depending on where you buy them from and if they are organic. Plus, they take up a lot of room in the fridge. If you go through a lot of greens, it’s a good idea to plant some in the summer to at least supplement your needs and reduce your food budget and prevent spoilage by picking just what you need from the garden.
2. Thyme and Basil.
Often these herbs cost $2.99 at the store (for organic) and can go to waste in the fridge as you only use a little bit for a recipe here and there. I much prefer having fresh herbs over dried ones as the flavor is much better in homemade things like soups and sauces. I plant a LOT of thyme and basil because these are my two most used herbs. Another favorite is dill (which is great in raw blended salads, salad dressings, or potato salad). These herbs can be planted in a container or separate herb gardens.
3. Cilantro (Coriander) and Parsley.
These herbs might or might not be cheap at your local grocery store, but I find that they don’t last very long in the fridge and tend to get slimy and are a pain to clean as there’s always some old and bad leaves in there. It’s nice to have a steady supply of cilantro and parsley which I love to use as garnishes (they make food photos even prettier) and on top of soups, salsas, and ethnic cuisines like Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian food.
Tomatoes are not something I enjoy eating raw on their own, but they are invaluable to raw and vegan cuisine. They are essential for delicious marinara sauces, stews, blended raw salads, raw salad dressings, salad toppings, and sandwiches. Home grown tomatoes are much tastier, sweeter, and fresher than store bought. Especially if you let them ripen on the vine.
5. Peas or Green Beans.
Peas and beans are great to grow as often the store bought ones are not very fresh and can be a little bit bitter or too hard. Fresh garden peas and beans are hard to match. They’re even delicious eating raw straight from the garden. I don’t usually cook mine as I eat through them quite quickly as healthy snacks and salad toppings, but they’re something the whole family can enjoy! Kids especially love to munch on fresh picked garden goodies and it develops a good sense of healthy eating for them.
6. Beets and Turnips.
Beets and turnips are great to grow in your garden because both the roots and the leaves are edible! Most people don’t eat the tops, but more and more veggie lovers are realizing the nutritional value of eating beet and turnip greens. There’s even more nutrition in them than the root, so don’t throw them away! They’re best eaten lightly steamed or sautéed as they can be a little strong tasting and tough to eat. The thick stems taste much better when lightly cooked as well. I love beets and turnips as they are both a starch and a green and make good use of garden space!
7. Onions, Green Onions, and Leeks.
Onions are something I go through like crazy, they are a staple to any homemade dish really whether it is raw or cooked as it adds a delicious flavor and aroma to the dish. If you plant onions and pick them early, they will be green onions (also called scallions or spring onions) and these are great to use in raw salads, raw dressings, raw blended salads, salsas, and garnishes. If you let them go to seed, they will grow again next year so you’ll always have a steady supply of onions.
Cucumbers are often fairly expensive at the store and a highly used item in raw and vegan salads and sandwiches. You can grow many varieties to be eaten fresh or to make pickles with. I even like to slice them on a mandolin and make little cucumber roll ups/sushi rolls with them. They are so beautiful and appealing as appetizers this way. Cucumbers grow on a vine and need a trellis or something to climb up onto so their fruits will not be laying on the grown and exposed to ground insects.
Zucchini is very easy to grow, provided you give it enough space. It’s a long and sprawling plant and one or two plants is all you need to get a ton of zucchini. Start picking them when they reach about a foot in size, and don’t let them grow too long or they become hard and woody inside. Young zucchinis are easy to use in salads, stir fries, Ratatouille, and even make raw vegan spaghetti or fettuccine strands with.
10. Red potatoes or “new potatoes”
If you’re getting a late start, you can always get potato seedlings at your garden centre, or plant some “seed” potatoes in early February or March for a spring harvest. These types of potatoes are called new potatoes because they are picked and sold immediately in the spring. They have paper thin skins and are best in salads or lightly steamed with seasonings. Fall potatoes have been grown longer and “cured” so their skins toughen up and they are able to be stored in a cool dark place through the winter. Potatoes can be grown fairly easily if you have a sunny place. They best way to grow is actually in a potato bag, as you will get many more potatoes as they can grow down as you roll up the bag and keep filling it with dirt and cover some of the leaves as they grow up. It gets a much higher yield this way than just planting in the garden. Check out potato bags here.
Other vegetables I’m growing this year are acorn squash, celery, kohlrabi, red bell pepper, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, and carrots, along with many other herbs like oregano, sage, tarragon, rosemary, sweet leaf, and Thai basil.